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Columbia Inspired

From the Heart

Nov 14, 2022 11:27PM ● By Adrienne Ross

The season of gratitude and giving is upon us, and Sonia Su, a Howard County native, has a lot to be thankful for and is giving back in a big way. After earning her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University, she attended Georgetown University. After starting her Masters in Asian Studies, she started having chest pains at the end of her first semester. Being that she was a healthy 24-year-old, she assumed it was stress. But unfortunately, it wasn’t just stress. In 2018, Sonia was diagnosed with an aggressive type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Surprised by the diagnosis, Sonia took a leave of absence and immediately began treatment. She started first-line chemotherapy at Johns Hopkins, relapsed, received second-line chemotherapy at Hopkins, and then switched to the University of Maryland Medical Center for third-line treatment, CAR T-cell immunotherapy. Sonia was quickly losing hope. Upon being admitted for her third-line treatment, Sonia noticed a care package left on her hospital bed. “It brought me such hope; it was a wonderful gesture.” Inspired by this selfless, caring act, she vowed to pay the gesture forward one day. The third-line treatment saved her life, and she has been in remission since March 2019.

Remembering the small but powerful act of kindness shown to her spurred her new business idea to create carefully curated care kits for cancer patients. She returned to Georgetown University, enrolled in business and entrepreneur classes, and finished her degree. With a business plan in hand, Kits to Heart was founded in May 2020 in Clarksville, MD. “Kits to Heart are made with love from former patients and volunteers. They are thoughtfully curated to help patients through their journey and to provide comfort and joy,” says Su. The organization also works with Triage Cancer to provide information to help families navigate insurance, employment, and other issues patients and families may encounter.

There was an outpouring of support and community involvement during COVID-19. Cancer patients were in isolation, and people were looking for ways to connect with the people in their community. “Volunteers worked remotely, made blankets, sewed masks and heart pillows, and even helped deliver the kits to local hospitals and drop them off at the post office. It seems like everyone knows someone affected by cancer,” says Su. Kits to Heart’s impact spreads far and wide. Everyone can benefit from helping others; volunteers, cancer patients, and even students can earn service hours for volunteering. According to the Kits to Heart website, as of November 2, 2022, they have shipped 2,056 care kits to all 50 states and delivered more than 2,300 care kits to local hospitals. Since the summer of 2020, more than 3,100 people and groups have been working to contribute over 40,000 service hours and counting. “Anyone interested in bringing a smile to someone with cancer can volunteer, organize collection drives, or create a group effort to bring together items for cancer care kits. It gives me joy to give joy,” says Su. “There are opportunities for people of all ages to help. They can make cards and crochet or knit hats and bags. Any and all are welcome to volunteer.”

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